Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tangled Web

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive..."  - Sir Walter Scott

The history of the Volkswagen car and truck is interesting, since very few other cars on the road can trace their lineage back to an insane Nazi dictator bent on the slaughter of an entire religion, world domination, and the promotion of a master race. Adolf Hitler was just beginning his rise to power in 1933 when he decided that every German should have access to a economical car to haul the family around, and so he commissioned "the people's car" - Volks wagen. 

Following World War II, Americans who just a few years ago had been in bloody combat with Hitler's Germany started buying the exported model, the early "Beetle." It was good on gas, cheap to buy, seated four, and so they sold like hotcakes over here, although you'd think there would have been more of a Fuehrer made over it. Horrible pun intended.

They're showing Adolf that the motor is in the back
I think that my father and the millions of others who bought those Beetles just had enough of fighting, I don't know. Not for me to say; I wasn't over there. But the rise of the VW at the time that it was just about the only "foreign car" on the road certainly contributed to the reputation of Germany as a technological paradise where machinery of immaculate precision is designed, built, and shipped over here.

With that fact in mind, was it a surprise to anyone that Volkswagen was recently caught in a little deception?  Their diesel cars, sold as being energy efficient and ecologically-wise in exhaust, was rigged to operate that way only when the vehicle emissions test machinery was hooked up to it, so it would meet government standards, and then it was off to the speedy races as soon as the unsuspecting driver drove off.

The number of vehicles affected worldwide is close to 11 million. VW has banked $7.2 billion to fix the problem. Volkswagen’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, had a can tied to him as soon as the board of directors met over this. Some 30 class action lawsuits have been filed from car owners all over, and plenty more are sure to come from people who plunked down money on a VW, believing it to be highly fuel-efficient.  Now they're stuck with a car that will be hard to trade or sell. 

The discovery of the deceit is attributed to a small lab at West Virginia University. In 2012, researchers there got a $50,000 grant to investigate the claims of emission efficiency made by "clean" diesel cars.   They found discrepancies of 35 times the readings that VW had claimed for their cars. 

The researchers suspected cheating, and the California Air Resources Board got involved, lending a little weight to the proceedings. Soon the Environmental Protection Agency was threatening to block the sale of all 2016 VW diesels in America. Then and only then did VW confess to the scheme, and they have seen their stock value drop by 30 percent.

I'm sorry for those who own the affected cars, and even sorrier for those who work for VW dealerships.  And of course, there's always the possibility that other car manufacturers were up to the same rotten trick.

I guess it's universal, this urge to make money at all costs, no matter who gets lied to or cheated.  Maybe that's the saddest part of all this. 

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